Wednesday, September 17, 2014

If you want to fight the system, you have to actually DO SOMETHING

A couple friends of mine posted this article earlier today with some varying feedback about it.  The younger friend had commentary about how this list resonates so much with a lot of people she knows.  The older friend, who is still several years younger than me and still living in that "millennial" generation posted a bit of a rant about how this sounds like a list of things people like to tell themselves when they can't get their shit together.  I lean toward my older friend's attitude on this, because this list just made me roll my eyes.  I think my problem is that the article and the list implies that by being "subversive" these people are somehow fighting the system when really all they're doing is slacking and feeling a sense of entitlement.  So, because I'm a snarky bitch, I decided to post my own rebuttal for the items on the list that I took umbrage with.

1. We play by our own rules. - That's awesome.  I hope those rules include paying your rent, not getting arrested, and living a life that somehow contributes to the betterment of society on the whole, otherwise you're just an asshole.
2. We don’t take the first answer given to us. - Yet you will believe any bullshit you see on tumblr or youtube, without substantiating anything via research and verification?  Really?
3. We don’t care about getting into trouble. - This implies a lack of ability to take responsibility for your actions.  You do things that get you in trouble but don't care about the trouble it causes so...basically I have to assume you believe those consequences are because of something someone else did wrong, not you?
4. We’re willing to work for nothing if it means being happy… Despite being in debt. - Debt isn't glamorous.  It's crippling and limiting to your abilities to do things you may actually want to do.  Feel free to work for nothing, but also feel free to suffer the consequences of that choice.
5. We know how to beat the system. - That's cute.  No you don't.  You have to understand the system to know how to beat it, and you don't understand the system because you insist on living outside of it.  But keep thinking you know how to beat it.
6. We’re always trying to change the game. - Then why do so few of you actually do it?
7. We have social media on our side. - So does the rest of the world.
8. We like a good fight. - That's only effective when you have a solid point to make and are able to substantiate it.
9. We don’t care about the perks. - That's a great "for now" strategy, but at some point in your life you'll be sick of working 7 days a week, multiple jobs, not being able to go on vacation etc. and you'll wish you cared about the perks a lot sooner.
10. We hate that “old boys club” sh*t. - So do a lot of people who are older than you.
11. We’re not about climbing the ladder, we’re about circumventing it. - Again, you have to know how that works to actually do it.
12. We ask for what we want rather than implying it. - This is actually great, more people should do it.  But you should also be sure you actually deserve what you ask for.
13. We’re not afraid to quit if we don’t like what’s going on. - I hope you are also not afraid to be homeless when you can't find a new job right away and have no way to pay your way through life.  Plus, quitting does no good.  Fine, you quit.  What did that do?  It got you out of a situation.  If you're so passionate and love a good fight and whatever else, why not work to change the things you don't like instead of being a lazy slacker and just walking away?
14. We’re not on that suit and tie. - Neither is most of the workforce.  A lot of employers have stopped requiring ridiculous dress codes, which you'd know if you were working a real job.
15. We’d rather start work at 10 and finish at 10. - You'd rather have a 12 hour work day if it means you start a couple hours later?  Who actually wants to work 12 hours?
16. We’ve got youth on our side. - For now.
17. We don’t have a chip on our shoulders. - Yes you do.  And a ridiculous sense of entitlement.
18. We know technology a hell of a lot better. - Do you really?  Better than who?  Anyone born during the rise of computers is actually pretty tech savvy.  Tumblr doesn't make you awesome with technology.
19. We’re more educated, by the book and the street. - Most of the youth I know are fairly privileged and don't know a damn thing about "the street".  You're also part of a generation who reads less than almost every generation prior to it.
20. We’re not interested in office politics. - No one enjoys office politics.  The thing is, that political game happens EVERYWHERE, not just the office.  It happens in your friendships, your relationships, and if you were working a "non office" job you'd still have politics.
21 . We have less to lose and everything to gain. - That remains to be seen.
22. We don’t pursue the paycheck, we pursue the passion. - Why can't someone do both?  Oh wait....you could.
23. We have that “f*ck you” attitude. - Yes, and it's not endearing.
24. We are trying to beat the system, not just work with it. - You keep using the word "trying".
25. We don’t have to go to college to get ahead. - College isn't about a job.  I hate when people tell me that college isn't worth it because you pay more for your degree than the job it eventually gets you will yield.  College is about EDUCATION.  It's about exposing yourself to ideas and viewpoints that are different from what you experienced in your upbringing.  You learn as much from just interacting in class as you do from a professor or a text book.  It also teaches you some time management skills.  You need these things.  You need to be educated regardless of whether it just gets you a job.
26. We’re getting married later and working younger. - Married later, yes.  Working younger?  Not necessarily.  Generations before you began working steadily at 12 or 13 years old.  Some of you didn't start until you were over 16.
27. We’re listening to our women. - This is actually a good thing.
28. We want freedom more than anything else. - You want freedom but are comfortable with having debt?  That's contradictory.
29. We would rather die a slow death than sit in cubicles. - Have you actually worked in a  cubicle?  You have this image of being some sort of cube drone that isn't necessarily accurate.  There are tons of cubicle based jobs that involve collaboration, vibrant ideas, and are nothing like the horror stories you seem to be picturing.
30. We know they need us more than we need them. - This attitude makes you an asshole.  For each one of you who has this attitude there are 3 who realize they need a job and that no employer HAS to hire them.  They will have a job.  You will not.
31. We distribute the news, not the other way around. - I think the word "news" should be used loosely.  You distribute what you perceive as news but it's just as skewed and biased as your parents news.
32. We don’t care as much about profit as we do the product. - That's great.  I actually don't have an issue with this one.
33. We’re willing to listen to one another. - Yes, but not to those older than you who have more experience, knowledge or understanding of the world at large.  This is your folly.
34. We understand whom we’re talking to. - No you don't.  You understand each other.  You do not understand anyone else.
35. We don’t do drug tests. - I'm not a fan of drug tests either, only because it's an invasion of some privacy, and your personal life does not become property of your employer.  My problem here is that I think you are only against it so that you can be high all the time.
36. We’re open to any gender, sexual orientation and race. - Awesome.
37. We know what makes us happy. - As a generation of people with more anxiety and depression problems than generations prior to yours, do you really?
38. We know what doesn’t make us happy. - If this list is any indication, being a productive member of society is what doesn't make you happy.
39. We learned from our parents mistakes. - No you did not.  If you're totally comfortable with working for peanuts and being in debt, you have learned nothing.
40. We’ve defined them, they haven’t defined us. - What does this even mean?
41. We’d rather travel and be poor than be rich and never see the world. - This is hilarious.  If you are poor, you don't travel.  End of story.  It takes, at minimum, $2000 to fly to another continent.  You don't get to do that if you're poor.  You can try to live your bohemian lifestyle and hitchhike across the country or whatever, but true travel comes when you have the means to do it.  You don't have that when you're poor.
42. We don’t take life too seriously. - That's fine, but I feel like there are a lot of things you don't take seriously enough.
43. We understand we’re all going to die someday. - Everyone understands that.  You are not a unique and special snowflake in this.
44. We’d rather have experiences than bank statements. - You can't have experiences without the money to fund them.
45. We refuse to hate what we do. - Yet you don't refuse to hate pretty much everything else.
46. We know there’s always a better way. - I feel like, in this point, the word "better" is a substitute for "easier".
47. We want careers, not jobs. - And yet you are willing to work for nothing, which indicates something is a "job" not a "career".  You don't get a career without the drive and motivation to work toward one, and going into a world thinking they need you more than you need them doesn't get you a career.
48. We have passion. - You also have a lot of apathy and slacktivism.  Passion is only good when you have drive to see it through.
49. We have morals. - So do older generations, asshats.
50. We have each other. - Which you'll probably need when you need couches to sleep on after quitting whenever you don't like what's going on.

So there you go.  My take on this list.  Essentially, I think it's bullshit.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

I think I don't understand people

This has been a long week.  A long, emotional, exhausting week.  I think this week has basically just taught me that I have zero understanding of people.  I know that I have always struggled with understanding why some people couldn't do the same things I was capable of doing.  I'm great at multitasking, and balancing a million things at once.  I have never understood people who simply can't do that.  I am pretty good at making an effort to make people feel important in my life, so I never understand people who can't.  I am not one to make tons of excuses for things, so I don't understand people who do.  I am the sort of person who doesn't, typically, get too self involved or wrapped up in my own life and my own crap to the point where I can't recognize need in others and step up to fill it, so I can't understand people who are really self involved.  I am horribly observant, so I can't understand people who don't pay attention to things.  If I add up a lot of those things, it sort of feels like I don't understand any people.  It's a challenge.  I have been working on trying not to hold people to the standards and expectations I have for myself, because it's often unrealistic for others to live up to, but I often find myself falling into that "I can do it, so why can't you?" trap.

This has become challenging on the whole parenting a teenager front.  Right now, I have a teen who I have a hard time relating to most of the time.  Yes, I know, everyone is going to say "No parent can relate to their teen", but I think this is different.  I stepped in at the 11th hour.  I didn't have any opportunity to mold her into who she currently is, I just took what someone else had already molded and attempted to do my best.  She is a great kid, but sometimes I can't understand her.  She's not observant.  She never sees a need and fills it.  She makes a lot of excuses for why she doesn't do things or can't do things instead of realizing that she could do those things if she spent less time making all of the excuses.  Often she finds herself wholly without fault in all situations where she makes mistakes, despite the fact that she has total control over them.  I love her, but it's a challenge.  It's a challenge to turn off the voice in my head that wants to shout "I HAVE BEEN WHERE YOU ARE NOW AND I COULD DO IT SO WHY CAN'T YOU?" and temper it for a more gentle "Maybe next time think about...." that I hope reads as a message that she does have some ownership in most situations.  I'm struggling to smile and stay patient as my advice is constantly ignored, and my predictions of what will happen if her course stays the same come true over and over.  I struggle with guiding her to make good decisions while knowing she's ignoring me and will just make bad ones.  I know making mistakes is part of learning and growing, but does she have to make ALL of them?  Can't she listen on the big things and then screw up by running out of gas on her way to work or something?  I don't know how to guide someone gently.  Jason is better at this than I am.  I want to put my foot down and force her down the right path in some situations, because I've been through enough in my life to see the end game of the current one.  I want to shout at her.  I want to tell her she's being an idiot when she is being an idiot.  I want to ask why she insists on making the same mistakes over and over without learning from them.  I want to schedule her life and manage her time for her since she isn't great at doing it herself.  I want her to have an easier path than I had, because I didn't have anyone to point these things out for me, or guide me, or tell me they had been exactly where I was and knew a better way.  The problem is, you can't control people.  You can only control yourself.  That can be really hard sometimes.

I know this bleeds into other areas of my life as well.  I had a brief e-mail exchange with a former friend this week.  She and I used to be really close, or at least I thought we were.  I think maybe I had more value and investment in the friendship than she did, and I just didn't realize it.  But, due to some outside forces, we were exchanging a few messages and I realized that my current parenting struggles emulate my past friendship struggles with this person.  In the exchange, she said something along the lines of "I've always had a strong support system in my life, and because of that, I don't think I realized you didn't and that you needed one, and you expected it to be me".  Not an exact quote, but the general idea.  As I read that, I sat there with my jaw slightly agape.  I felt bewildered and found myself wondering "How could you NOT have realized that?".  I was under the impression that everyone I was truly close to kind of knew that.  I thought I had made it pretty clear to those who were trusted enough to know my life story.  I was taken aback by that one statement.  She didn't know?  How could she not have known?  What did I do to make it unclear?  We were best friends for years, I just didn't understand.  Then I started thinking about it in context with some of my other bewilderment with other people and realized, maybe she didn't know.  Maybe, even though I said and demonstrated time and time again that I had to create an alternative support system for myself, she wasn't listening.  Maybe it was a case of being a person who wasn't always observant.  Maybe, like my teenager, this person was not able to see outside of herself to recognize a need in someone else because her life was different and her priorities were different, and no matter what I said, it would never really be clear because just as I was struggling to relate to her, she may have been struggling to relate to me.  Does that make me go "Oh, well then everything that happened between us is fine now"?  No.  I still wish she had been that person who could see and understand.  I still struggle with accepting that difference between us, because it's not what I would have done.  But it does make me realize that just because my life and my struggles are important to me, it doesn't mean they will be important to everyone.  Heck, I acknowledge that they shouldn't all be important to everyone, but I also need to understand that even the big stuff isn't going to always matter to other people.  I just struggle with that because other people's stuff all matters to me.  Even the little things are kind of important to me.  I often find myself carrying the crosses of others without being asked because, to me, it seems like the right thing to do.  Not everyone is me.  Not everyone is going to do that.  I just need to figure out how to accept that in others.  It's not easy.

I guess the point is, I don't know how to understand people who don't feel things the way I do, or see things the way I do, or appreciate things the way I do.  I don't know how to accept people who make excuses instead of owning their actions.  I don't know how to make that ok, and then never call them out on it.  I don't know how to understand self absorption, or anyone who can't look at someone else's struggle and say "I know you didn't ask, but that looks heavy, can I help you carry it?" because it's what I would do, and I don't understand others who don't view people the same way.  I'm trying.  I really am.  I've made it two years in a house with a teenager I didn't raise, undoing some of the mistakes my predecessor made, and I haven't killed her.  I am working so hard to accept.  To bite my tongue where I should.  To allow people to make excuses, or manage time poorly, or learn from their own mistakes.  I'm trying.  It's just so damn hard sometimes.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Long and Winding Road

This, ladies and gents, is my elbow.  That lovely slash there in the middle is my incision, which is still sensitive and painful to the touch even now, close to three months post op.  The discoloration around it is the result of the awesomeness that is physical therapy.  That would be bruising.  Bruising from them man handling the elbow.  Bruising from them pushing and pulling on the joint.  And if you are looking at it, you might notice that it also looks a little misshapen.  That would be the swelling.  The swelling that never quite went down after the surgery, and seems to get worse every time I go in for the 90 minute torture session that is physical therapy.  The swelling that, no matter how much I ice it, doesn't seem to go away, and that often feels like it's causing my joint to become more stiff the more my physical therapist works on it, not less.  Most days I leave physical therapy and I feel like I have less mobility in my arm than I did when I walked in.  Lately, if I can use my hand or lift my arm at all afterward, that's a red letter day and I should consider myself damn lucky.  It's been about three weeks with lots of pain and little progress, and it's starting to make me both frustrated and impatient.

I know that this is "a process".  That the body doesn't heal overnight.  I get that.  I'm just starting to get worn down by the fact that I keep going in and doing all of this work, going through all of the pain that they inflict on me, and then seeing zero progress from one week to the next.  I've tried to embrace my inner bad ass and just grit my teeth through it all, letting them tug at my arm like it's not attached to the rest of me while trying not to wince or grimace or swear too much.  The truth of the matter is, it fucking hurts.  Like, I know people tell you that PT is painful, but I think your average person going through PT is dealing with something relatively minor, like pulling a muscle in their shoulder, or pain in their hip.  I think the ante gets up significantly when you throw in an injury with scar tissue involved.  You hear that term a lot, but what you don't realize when you're hearing it is that to get through the whole scar tissue roadblock, you have to fucking tear the tissue.  Literally, rip it.  Take a moment to imagine how fabulous that feels.  What seems to be "special" about my situation is that usually when scar tissue pulls apart or tears, the person stretching you out can feel it happen, because the joint gives a little bit and things loosen up.  With mine, it's even more exciting.  With mine, you can hear it.  There is an audible popping, snapping or ripping noise when they break through my scar tissue.  I'm told that's not terribly common.  In fact, the first time it happened the physical therapist said "Wow, for me to hear it means we're breaking through some seriously bad tissue".  Gee, awesome.  Just lucky, I guess.  I think it freaked him out though, because after I left he called my surgeon's office to make sure they weren't doing anything that could damage me further.  So there's an example of how rare it is.  Woo!  I'm exceptional!

It also sucks that I can feel my muscles and tendons tugging against the anchors that have been inserted into my bone every time they work on me.  I can feel precisely where he anchored each muscle, and I can feel everything pulling against those anchors every single time.  It's a disgusting sensation.  My big worry is that even after I'm "normal" I'll still be able to feel that.  I would prefer not to.

I think the uncertainty of things is what's heightening my anxiety.  Sure, I'm told that I should be able to make a full recovery to normal, or at least my surgeon thinks so.  I've gotten some skeptical looks from my physical therapist on that front.  I've also seen zero progress in weeks, no matter what they do to me.  I am starting to worry that it's all a load of crap and I'm going to be one armed for the rest of my life.  Then I try to imagine not being able to do normal things that I think of now as "I can't do that until my arm gets better...." becoming a permanent situation.  Stupid things, like washing my hair with both hands, or putting on a necklace.  Then it's big things like picking up my niece and nephews to hug them.  Or if we have our own kids, not being able to properly hold one because of my arm.  Not being able to walk Ronan because I can't trust him not to chase a rabbit and pull me over onto my arm.  Not being able to hug anyone properly because I can't bend my arm in quite enough.  Those are the things that scare me.  I'd be better at dealing with the PT if it meant I could be guaranteed to get those things back.

I know the road is supposed to be long, and I'm at the beginning of it, but I keep feeling like I'm already falling behind.  Mostly I just want to be back to normal.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Comeback Kid

So, this is what Michigan looks like, more or less.  Ice, snow, crummy roads.  All of the glory that winter has to offer.  For anyone new to the party here, I got my ass  proverbially kicked by winter this year when I slipped on some ice and broke my arm.  Or at least I thought I just broke my arm.  Turns out, no, I royally fucked up my arm.  I ripped every muscle and tendon that attaches to my elbow.  I dislocated the joint.  I chipped off a piece of bone.  I basically took my arm and said "What exactly can I do to make you as useless as possible, short of removing you all together?" and then did exactly that.  I ended up in surgery to fix it all, and then I had a week off of work to basically sit around and do nothing.  The thing is, when you sit around and do nothing for hours on end, you start getting the urge to write things, update your blog, let yourself be clever, and then you remember that you only have one hand and typing is a real bitch.  So, instead I just sat around, bored out of my mind.

Now I'm about a month post-surgery and things are starting to get back to normal a little bit.  Not normal enough for my liking, since I still don't have full mobility of my arm, and I probably won't have it for a while since they had to re-anchor all of my stupid muscles and now it's new tissue that has to learn elasticity.  Thanks, muscles.  So I can't do a lot of normal stuff like lifting or holding anything with my left hand that has too much weight.  I can't bend my arm enough to wash my hair with both hands, or fix my shirt when it's all twisted around on my right arm, but I can lift a little more, and my grip is slowly getting better.  Things still hurt, but at least I can notice some small amount of progress.

The thing about this whole busted arm thing is that it's made me see myself, and my life a lot differently.  I've come to appreciate Jason immensely, because when I had to be taken care of he did it without complaint.  Even when it was me waking him up at 3 a.m. to get me more pain meds. I'm not good at letting people look after me or losing my independence.  I hate it, actually, but he did so much to make life easier, and he never made me feel like I was a baby who needed to be taken care of.  I loved him for that.  I'm slowly learning to be dependent on someone else, and while it's a big struggle for me, it's nice to have someone who doesn't make it feel like dependence.  I've also learned that sometimes, even if you're sick or injured and can't do certain things, some people still won't step up and do anything without an engraved invitation, and that was frustrating.

I think the worst part is that for some reason, I can't shake the flashback of everything that happened.  I have dreams about falling and cracking my face on the ice at least once a week.  Even though my arm got the biggest injury, I seem to remember smacking my face on the ice the most vividly and even now if I think about it, my nose starts to hurt where I smashed it.  I start to physically feel panic when I think about having to go in for surgery, even though there are no surgeries on my horizon.  I will spend a day minding my own business and then out of the blue I'll get this image of me falling, and start thinking about how much worse it could have been, and then I get upset by that idea even though I'm really grateful that it wasn't worse.  I don't know why I can't seem to shake the memory of it all, but it's proven harder than I thought it would be.

I have been trying to look for the bright side of things.  It could have been worse, but it wasn't.  It could have been Jason, or my friend Scott, but it wasn't.  I'd honestly rather it be me than someone else, since at least I've been through surgery and all of that before.  The damage is temporary and everyone thinks I'll be back to normal without any problem.  I'm a month out from the surgery date and I'm sitting here, typing with access to both hands, gaining a small amount of mobility back in my elbow, which is awesome.  I was only on pain meds for 4 days total, including the day of the surgery.  I'm able to pretty much shower and dress myself now, and I can do most of the cooking I would normally do, with just a few things that I find myself needing help with.  All in all, I could be in a very different place right now.  That doesn't mean I don't have my moments of frustration where I get upset and think I'll never be able to do certain things by myself again, or where I break down a little and feel like I haven't made enough progress, but when I get my head out of that frustrated space, I have to admit that I've come a long way, even though I have a long way left to go.  I just keep telling myself all of this is temporary, and in a year I'll look back and it'll seem like it never happened.

Monday, January 6, 2014

It's a New Year

It's a new year again.  Those seem to keep rolling around and finding their way to us.  In the past, I've been all "Let's make some resolutions" or something, and I realized that all resolutions do is make me feel like some sort of lame-o when I don't accomplish them.  I also sometimes set unattainable goals for myself, so...there's that.  I don't know what I want or expect in this new year, but I know that if I keep my expectations low, I'm not likely to find myself disappointed.  I feel like I might say this a lot, but the last few years have been rough.  There's been a lot of emotional turmoil in the Berry household.  We've lost connection to something we both dearly loved working on, and in the attempt to try filling that void with something we both thought was equally rewarding, we've come up short.  In fact, we've come up with a lot of nothing.  Last year we saw lasing ripples from our break with the school, and they seem to keep cascading out and touching our lives in some way or another, no matter how hard we have tried to put it all behind us.  Even now, two years later, it still stings.

We've been working with our own theater company, but that is proving difficult due to lack of help, lack of money, and lack of dedication from members.  It's sad, and I don't know how to fix it, but I know that we can't keep the train moving all by ourselves.  That's just the reality of the situation.  But helping hands don't appear, so we're left floating alone.  I hope that improves, but I'm not really so sure it will.

Mostly I look back on 2013 with a lot of sadness.  Friends went through really hard times that I wish I could have helped them with more than I was able.  Family connections in some cases became more strained, more brittle, more prone to cracks.  Even friendships became that way with some people.  Life as a parent to a college freshman started, and I can't help feeling that I've failed over and over in so many ways when it comes to that piece of my life.  I'm sure there are always struggles, but this year I've been faced with a lot of exasperation and a lot of questioning why I talk when no one listens.  It's been hard.  It's easy to want to give up.

I think, overall, 2013 has felt like the year of not enough.  Not enough time.  Not enough help.  Not enough love.  Not enough cooperation.  Not enough kindness.  Not enough honesty.  Not enough forgiveness.  Just...not enough.  And this isn't isolated to myself.  That illness of "not enough" runs rampant through my friends, my family, my peers.  It seems like everyone needed more of something last year, and it kept dancing out of their reach.

For some reason I feel like this year might be a year of change.  I don't know why.  I just feel like after two years of hard times, something has to get better, right?  Maybe the theater company will suddenly get the help it has desperately needed.  Maybe Jason will get a new job.  Maybe friends who are struggling will find their way to an easier path.  Maybe some positives will start cropping up in abundance for people who so desperately need them.  I hope that happens.  I am grateful for all of the positives that did come out of last year, but this year I hope they aren't so hard earned.  I hope that happiness finds its way to the people in my life, and that it spreads through them like wildfire.

It's been a long December and there's reason to believe maybe this year will be better than the last.....

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Frozen

The past few days have left me feeling like I have somehow stopped living in Michigan and started living somewhere akin to Alaska.  That pretty snow covered photo over there to the left?  Yeah, that sucker is a pipe dream, because it has sunshine in it, and we haven't seen much of that in conjunction with this latest snow storm.  All in all, the snow isn't that big a deal.  Sure, it's inconvenient and it makes your commute to work a bit of a pain, and there's that whole "I have to shovel this crap" element to it, but I don't mind snow.  I actually kind of like how pretty it can be.  What I hate is cold.  Blistering, biting, gnawing cold.  The kind of cold that stings as it touches your skin, and frosts your lungs over for having the audacity to attempt to breathe in.  It's the cold that I have a hard time with.  I tend to be on permanent freeze between November and May, where no matter how hard I try, warming up is never quite achieved.  I usually ignore it, since there's no getting around it, but today it's several degrees below zero and the wind is brutal, and I can't help wishing that we could just edge up to 30 degrees again.  At this point, it would be a treat.

So we have snow.  We had snow to usher in the New Year, and I imagine we'll have snow for months to come.  It makes me appreciate Spring a bit more, to be honest.  When we have mild winters, I just begin to take Spring for granted.  Now I think I'll be looking forward to it, and that will be nice.  Just about two more months before we can start having some hope that we'll thaw out of all of this.  Is it just me, or did fall go by very fast this year?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Positively Apathetic


The other day, the incomparable Keely-Rain posted these tweets, which showed up in my Twitter feed as I was scrolling along killing some time at work while waiting for a meeting to start.  What followed was a severely truncated Twitter discussion on the subject, choked off by our 140 character limit.  This is a subject that has hit home for me a few times, primarily because there have been people in my life who seem to think that if you're just positive about enough things, the world will get better.  I find this way of thinking to be detrimental, in the long run.  

This idea, popularized by books like The Secret and media moguls like Oprah, postulates that if you just think positively about the things that you want in life, the universe will give those things to you.  It's really a consumerist and commercialized way of thinking.  If you want a new house, think positively and the universe will find a way to give you one.  The problem with this line of thought is that, while I'm sure that thinking positively does a lot to improve your mood or keep you focused, it doesn't do a whole lot in terms of actually creating forward momentum for any individual.  In fact, the idea that you can just think positively and good things will happen is the most passive way to participate in your own life.  It's a way of feeling like you're actually doing something without actually doing anything.  For someone like myself, who is decidedly not religious, it's sort of akin to praying.  Praying is feeling like you're doing good and enacting change without actually doing anything more than talking to empty space.  I'm sure if you're faith driven, you do feel like there is a god out there listening and responding to your prayers, but for a cynic like me it's just a way of feeling like something good is being done without standing up and taking action.  

Principles taught in books like The Secret allow for the every day man to think he's going to get exactly what he feels he deserves, and moreover, it takes responsibility off of that individual to take action in their own life.  If you don't get the thing you want, it's because you weren't thinking positively enough, or the universe wasn't able to sense that you wanted it.  It wholly removes the ideas of hard work, fiscal responsibility, and education.  These ideas give people to basically be lazy while still believing that they will get what they want.  It appeals to individuals who are content to behave passively in a world that does not reward passivity.  But when you think about the vast majority of people that these ideas are heralded by, with the exception of Oprah, it's people who are always looking for the easy way out of something.  Magic weight loss plans, get rich quick schemes and the like.  Or people who don't vote because no one "represents their ideals" while at the same time those individuals make zero effort to find and promote a candidate who would represent those ideals.  This is a school of thought housed in the minds of those who believe that by simply existing in this world, they have done enough.  Now the world owes them something in return.  Their charitable contributions to the planet are small, if they exist at all, and yet they still feel somehow entitled to a world that rewards them for their inaction.  In the long run, it's a little sad.

Ideas like this are hard for someone like me, who has always been taught to stand their ground and create change if no one else will.  I can't understand these passive ideals that so many embrace.  In truth, it feels like a very American way of thought.  We've passed by the idea that we should work toward a greater good long ago.  Our capitalist mentality has the majority of the nation looking out for #1, and organizations who work to protect the average person are quickly being broken apart.  The word "union", for example, is a dirty word in most companies, and as the unions have dissolved, wages and benefits have also dwindled away.  We no longer care about each other as long as we are taken care of ourselves.  This leaves a lot of room for these self fulfilling ideals to creep into the edges of society and take root.  Think positive and you get what you want.  Don't worry about working hard for it, or being responsible so that you get it.  Just think about it.  It's as if we're all drinking the kool-aid of Harold Hill's "Think System" like a bunch of country yokels from a stage musical instead of being active, responsible members of society.  The willingness to remain passive in your own life is just a concept that I can't get behind.  What the world needs is people who stand up.  People who take action.  People who, above all, work to create the change they want to see in this world.  Positive thinking doesn't get you anywhere in that arena.  I think there's merit in thinking positively that you will succeed in your efforts, but just sitting around thinking that things will be good eventually is never going to be enough.

It's as if no one remembers reading Dr. Seuss as a child.  The Lorax probably said it best when he said "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.  It's not."

I think what we need is less positive thought, more caring a whole awful lot.